Victory Gardens Artistic Director Ken-Matt Martin ushers in a new age for the company with a play that trods familiar territory. travis tate’s QUEEN OF THE NIGHT introduces a father and son duo who find themselves at a crossroads on a camping trip. tate’s script contains several references to incidents in Stephen (André Teamer) and Ty’s (Terry Guest) past, but the conversation often steers around topics rather than right into them. It’s evident that Stephen has struggled with his son’s identity as a Black, queer man in the past, and it’s also evident that Stephen had a falling out with Ty’s older brother, Marshall (who remains unseen). While tate’s dialogue isn’t really grounded in realism, the realism comes through in the sense that the characters talk around their issues and never arrive at the root of their familial tension.
tate’s script paints with broad strokes. Even the idea of a father and son camping trip feels more conceptual than fully realized. Teamer and Guest are both accomplished performers, and they convey a level of familiarity with one another that’s endearing and portrays a real family dynamic. But tate’s characterizations don’t give them quite enough to chew on. Likewise, Martin’s direction encourages Teamer and Guest to bring that familial bond to the forefront, always dancing on the line between discomfort from conflicts past and the unconditional love between the characters.
The design for QUEEN OF THE NIGHT is lovely. Sydney Lynne’s set design transports us to a fairy-tale forest that reminds me of Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE (which also ties into the play’s title — though its origin isn’t addressed) or an ethereal A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. Connor Sale and Sim Carpenter’s lighting design is likewise interesting, showcasing dynamic tableaus through light. G Clausen’s sound design also fittingly references the Queen of the Night’s aria from THE MAGIC FLUTE. But while the design elements are visually pleasing, the tableaus don’t connect back to the next.
QUEEN OF THE NIGHT ultimately feels like it lacks specificity, and the dynamic between a parent and a child who seem diametrically opposed feels utterly familiar. Stephen and Ty read more like ideas for characters than fully dimensional character studies, even if the actors try their best to find more depth in their deliveries. As Martin continues his work as Victory Gardens’s new artistic director, I think there’s more exciting new plays yet to be discovered and staged.
QUEEN OF THE NIGHT plays through March 13 at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 North Lincoln Avenue. Visit VictoryGardens.org.
Photo Credit: Adrian O. Walker
Originally published on BroadwayWorld.com